Tokyo's 10 Year Climate Change Strategy

During my junior year abroad, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to volunteer for the Tokyo Olympic Bid Committee, and worked in their media center when the International Bid Committee conducted their final tour of the country. Since the central theme of Tokyo’s Olympic Bid was to make the 2016 Tokyo Olympics the first ever ‘carbon zero/minus’ games in history, I thought that it was appropriate to chose Tokyo as the topic of my presentation. I started off my research focused entirely on the Olympic Bid itself, but I was soon to discover that the Olympic plan was only a part of a much greater initiative and commitment made by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) to drop it’s carbon emission levels by 25% from the levels in the year 2000.

Tokyo is one of the largest and most-densely populated cities in the world, with nearly 13 million people and a population density of 15.143.7 people/sq mile, the amount of greenhouse gases, carbon emissions and pollution levels must be tremendous. Furthermore, since most of Tokyo’s old production industries have already moved away, a change in the city’s emission levels can only come from fundamental changes in its life style and daily business activities. If a city like TMG becomes successful in their attempt for zero carbon emissions, it will provide a leading example in Japan and also for other large cities in the world.

As the introduction to my presentation, I talked about the 2016 Tokyo Olympic Bid. The theme of this Olympic games was inspired by the Germen rennovation of their old Olympic stadium; thereby creating a new legacy. In order for the Tokyo Olympic games to become a legacy, the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) decided that the theme for the 2016 Tokyo Olympics will be the 'most compact and efficient Olympic Games ever’. By using green urbanism, green technology and carbon offsets, the 2016 Tokyo olympics also tried to promote environmental awareness and the importance of environmental protection. The environmental initiatives for the 2016 games were:

  1. Positive impact Games - Leading-edge Japanese environmental technologies shall be harnessed to realize a carbon-minus Olympics for which energy conservation technologies and renewable energy will be prioritized à only use 100% renewable energy for the Games.
  2. Green urbanism - Tokyo shall be revived as a beautiful city enveloped in corridors of water and greenery, and urban development will be undertaken not to block sea breeze
  3. Sustainability through sports - A environmental education and outreach program through sports pertaining to sustainable development shall be implemented to teach children around the world in collaboration with NGOs and other entities.

With these initiatives in mind, the TMG developed a series of Green concepts that includes Green architecture/urbanism, expansion of the mass transit system, compact event-radius and reuse of the old Olympic venues from 1964. Collectively, these environmental policies will offset or reduce all the carbon emissions generated by running the event and the influx of tourists accompanying the games.

All these green initiatives and commitments that the TMG made towards the 2016 Olympic games is only a part of a bigger initiative that the metropolitan government made to confront the environmental challenges facing the city. The TMG announced it’s 10 year climate change plan soon after the Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama openly pledge to cut national greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels of 1.261 billion tons, deeper than the minus 6 percent goal over 2008-2012 under the Kyoto Protocol.

         As I have mentioned before, the production industry that flourished around Tokyo in the 1970s and 1980s have long moved away, being replaced by carbon emissions from the business and commercial sector, generated by the increasing trend of office automation and the increase in computers usage and other office appliances along with air conditioning systems have now become the new major sources of CO2 emissions. Therefore, although the city has had relative successes in reducing industrial byproducts such as dust, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide, the rate of carbon emissions from the city's daily activities have acutally increased in magnitude and scale.

The following are the 5 consolidated initiatives that the TMG has formulated to combat carbon emissions in Tokyo:

Initiative I: Tokyo CO2 Emission Reduction Program

Initiative II: Reduction of CO2 Emissions n Households

Initiative III:Establishment of COS reduction guidelines

Initiative IV:CO2 Reduction From Vehicle Traffic

My presentation fitted perfectly with the series of presentations made before it, as we progressed from analyzing current environmental issues to examing the possible tech fixes available. The presentation before me focused on urban sprawl, and my topic provided an further example of a local government taking the initiative in implementing environmental policies to actively combat carbon emissions.

In class, we talked about the administrative possibilities and difficulties behind the implementation of the new regulations by the TMG. One major concern is that although these new policies promote environmental awareness, there are no strict enforcement or clear punishments for those don’t follow the new regulations. For example, the Green Building programs in initiative III included requiring large building owners to submit environmental plans to make their large commercial buildings more eco-friendly. However, there are no further laws that require these owners to actually implement their plans, making these new regulations ineffective.

On the other hand, TMG’s five initiatives also showed us what one city can do to cover its own carbon footprint. , which began their own environmental commitments and programs. TMG administrators are hoping that Tokyo will become the example for cities around Japan, thereby creating a boom amongst other world cities and begin a trend of localized environmentally-friendly initiatives that can collectively solve the carbon emission problems in larger urban centers.
Work Citied:

Tokyo takes the lead in climate change mitigation measures in Japan -
Tokyo CO2 trading may become a model -

First "Carbon-Minus-Games" ever -

Olympics Architecture -

Tokyo 2016: 'Setting the Stage for Heroes: Venues' -
Optional Material
Climate Change Action Plans - Participating cities -

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last updated 1/25/10